When it comes to the rash of young quarterbacks who have seen instant success, a guy whose team had more early-career success than any of them has expressed a little skepticism.
“People ask me all the time about these young quarterbacks,” Roethlisberger recently told Jarrett Bell of USA Today. “Let’s wait. One year does not mean a lot in this league. Let’s see what happens in two, three years.”
It’s sounds petty. And perhaps Roethlisberger realized that. So in his next breath he opted for something that seems more magnanimous.
“I’m not trying to take anything away from them,” Roethlisberger explained. “I think they did some great things last year, and they all have the potential to be great quarterbacks. But you don’t want people to jump on their bandwagon so fast and put so much pressure on them to live up to those expectations. My advice to them is to keep doing what you’re doing, playing as hard as you can because people will keep trying to build you up and it could get tough.”
Roethlisberger had a similar experience, without the hype or expectations. As a rookie in 2004, he took the Steelers to a 15-1 record and a berth in the AFC title game. That’s more than any of the much-celebrated 2012 rookies managed. Then, in his second year, Roethlisberger took the Steelers to the Super Bowl, and unlike second-year 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick won it.
Roethlisberger perhaps didn’t enjoy the same early-career attention and celebration due to perceptions that he was the latest in a string of Super Bowl-winning caretakers on teams with great defenses, from Trent Dilfer with the Ravens in 2000 to Brad Johnson with the Bucs in 2002. Since then, Roethlisberger has developed into a franchise-level quarterback who nevertheless resides a level or so below the elite passers.
When it comes to hype and expectations, Roethlisberger could soon be leapfrogged by a new generation of quarterbacks. It shouldn’t matter if he keeps winning, but when playing for the Steelers there always will be a sense that the success comes in large part from the defense.